⊂ EUROPE ⊃
Tensions overshadow EU vote on UK trade deal: The European Parliament is expected to ratify the post-Brexit EU-UK trade deal – a key move to ensure that tariff-and quota-free trade continues. MEPs voted on Tuesday and a result is due this Wednesday. But Brexit tensions remain, including a French threat against the UK over new fishing restrictions. French Europe Minister Clément Beaune accused the UK of blocking fishing rights and said the EU could respond with „reprisals“ in financial services. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Trade and Co-operation Agreement „comes with real teeth, with a binding dispute settlement mechanism“. And she warned that the EU would use those teeth if necessary.
EU plans to boost power of border agency Frontex: Brussels wants to expand and strengthen the mandate of Frontex, the EU’s border control agency, to increase the return of asylum-seekers and migrants whose applications to stay inside the bloc are rejected. The EU continues to struggle with a low rate of voluntary returns due to fragmented procedures, disagreements between member states and insufficient cooperation from non-EU countries, all of which complicates efforts to manage migration. Meanwhile, Denmark is determined to push ahead with efforts to return refugees to war-torn Syria as it claims conditions in parts of the country have improved – despite mounting pressure from lawmakers and civil society organisations.
France and Germany unveil green recovery plans: French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz unveiled their national recovery and resilience plans at a joint press conference Tuesday. France plans to invest 100 billion euros through ‘France Relance’, a strategy based on ecology, competitiveness and social and territorial cohesion. Germany, for its part, has announced that 40% of the budget allocated to the recovery, worth 11 billion euros – will be earmarked for the climate. The finance ministers from France and Germany have also declared their willingness to back a 21% minimum corporate tax as proposed by their US counterpart. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen put forward the proposed figure of a 21% minimum tax rate for corporations earlier this month.
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Greek neo-Nazi MEP arrested after EU Parliament lifts immunity: Greek neo-Nazi MEP Ioannis Lagos was arrested in Brussels on Tuesday after the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted to lift his immunity. A Greek court last year found Lagos, along with the rest of the top brass of his extreme-right Golden Dawn party, guilty of running a criminal organisation masquerading as a political party. Golden Dawn was founded as a Neo-Nazi group in the 1980s. It saw a surge in popularity during the 2010-2018 financial crisis, gaining parliamentary representation between 2012 and 2019. Its support has since plunged, and it failed to enter parliament in the 2019 election.
politico.eu, euronews.com, theguardian.com
MEPs vote for mandatory lobbying register: MEPs have voted to reinforce a list used to register meetings between lobbyists and EU officials that will apply, for the first time, to all three institutions. The newly strengthened Mandatory Transparency Register aims to make public, activities that influence the decision-making processes or legislation at the European level. These activities can include organising meetings or events, contributing to public consultations, communication campaigns, and preparing position papers or amendments. Interest representatives will have to declare the interests and objectives they promote, as well as specify the clients they represent. The EU Parliament welcomed the activity-based approach that covers indirect lobbying, which has become more prevalent due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
EU to charge Apple with anti-competitive behaviour this week: The European Union is set to charge Apple this week with anticompetitive behavior linked to a complaint from Spotify about App Store rules, according to a report by the „Financial Times“. It would represent the first time the technology giant has faced such charges in the EU. Music streaming platform Spotify alleged in March 2019 that Apple abused its control over which apps appear in the App Store to restrict competition against its own Apple Music service. EU regulators later opened antitrust probes into Apple in June 2020, investigating the App Store and Apple Pay. EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager will issue the charges publicly later this week, the „Financial Times“ reported.
EU audit report: No need for Czech Prime Minister Babis to repay EU money over conflict of interest, Commission says politico.eu
EU’s farmed animal welfare rules need ‘serious and extensive review’ euronews.com
Research and innovation: MEPs adopt landmark research programme Horizon Europe europarl.europa.eu
Coronavirus: Battle looms over the EU’s travel certificates politico.eu
⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃
„It is not a secret that the European Union did not do particularly well on returns so far.“
EU Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas has announced that the Commission wants to expand and strengthen the mandate of the EU’s border control agency Frontex to increase the return of asylum-seekers and migrants whose applications to stay inside the EU are rejected.
⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃
Anger as ex-generals warn of civil war in France: The French government has threatened to punish active soldiers who signed an open letter by 25 retired generals warning President Emmanuel Macron the country is headed for „civil war“. About 1,000 servicemen and women, including some 20 retired generals, put their names to the letter. It blamed „fanatic partisans“ for creating divisions between communities, and said Islamists were taking over whole parts of the nation’s territory. Ministers have condemned the message published in a right-wing magazine. Defence Minister Florence Parly warned Monday that those still serving would be punished for flouting a law requiring them to remain politically neutral. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, a candidate in next year’s presidential election, has spoken out in support of the former generals.
Recovery fund must clear Finnish supermajority vote: The fate of the EU’s 750 billion euro recovery fund could lie in Helsinki. The Constitutional Committee in Finland’s parliament announced Tuesday that two-thirds of the house must support the EU legal changes that are needed for Brussels to raise debt to finance the cash pot, Finnish media Helsingin Sanomat reported. All EU member countries must approve the legal changes, known as the Own Resources Decision, before the European Commission can issue bonds on financial markets.
Hungary’s Orban extends dominance through university reform: The Hungarian parliament passed legislation on Tuesday setting up foundations to take over the running of universities and cultural institutions. Currently, most Hungarian universities are owned by the state but have a large amount of academic autonomy. The bill, drafted by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s deputy, says the universities need to be reorganised and run by foundations. Orban’s government will appoint boards of trustees to run the foundations, which will control substantial real estate assets and benefit from billions of euros worth of EU funds, while also having considerable influence over universities‘ everyday life.
Switzerland to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage: Switzerland will hold a referendum on whether to push ahead with same-sex marriage. MPs adopted a bill recognising same-sex marriage in December, several years after many other Western European countries. But opponents of the law have gathered the necessary signatures to call for a referendum, the authorities said on Tuesday.
Albania PM claims victory in Albanian election: Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama told supporters on Tuesday they had delivered his Socialist Party’s „most difficult but sweetest“ election victory, as almost complete results suggested he had clinched a record third term in office. The election commission said the Socialists were on course for 74 seats in the 140-seat parliament after Sunday’s vote, making Edi Rama the first Albanian leader to win three mandates.
Italy: Parliament approves EU recovery fund tah.de
France seeks change in law after outrage over verdict in anti-semitic killing nytimes.com
Germany upgrades 2021 growth forecast amid vaccine hopes dw.com
Russia issue splits Czech Republic dw.com
Belgium bans travel from India, South Africa, Brazil politico.eu
⊂ POLITJOBS ⊃
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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃
Czech farmers group quits EU association: The Czech farmers group APF CR has left the EU agricultural organisation COPA, accusing it of showing a “contemptuous approach” and lacking support for small farmers, an accusation refuted by other Czech farmers’ groups. The association cited the EU farmers group’s position on the capping of direct payments from the EU’s farming subsidy programme, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), as a main reason for leaving.